Drab ‘Haute Cuisine’ looks delicious


Over the past week I’ve attempted to understand why Haute Cuisine, the new, terribly uneventful film from French director Christian Vincent, exists.

Haute Cuisine
Rating: PG-13
Running time: 95 min.
Stars: Catherine Frot, Jean d’Ormesson, Hippolyte Girardot

168 hours have passed and I’ve yet to find a coherent, logical explanation.

Based on the true story of Hortense Laborie (played by Catherine Frot), a renowned cook from Périgord who was hired as the private chef for French President François Mitterrand (played by Jean D’Ormesson), the film is equally drab and tedious.

More painful than the film’s banality is its startling insularity. Infatuated with filming ethereal aliment, Haute Cuisine ostensibly exists within the confines of the Élysée Palace’s kitchen.

It’s there Hortense prepares and cooks exquisitely simplistic, but delectable meals reminiscent of Mitterrand’s childhood (his mother used to serve up similar dishes).

The food projected onto the screen looks magnificent – and as an ode to French cuisine, Haute Cuisine is splendid. But Vincent sacrifices characters for cooking, and story for aesthetically appealing dishes that we, tragically, can’t eat.

Occasionally the picture attempts to tackle the bureaucracy inside the Palace. Hortense’s rapid success threatens many of the men who’ve been working at the Élysée for decades.

Intimidated by a strong-willed woman’s success, most of her coworkers refuse to aid her in any way. The rigid protocol and unjust treatment is at first interesting, but eventually turns tiring.

Haute Cuisine repeatedly fails to provide us a reason to care about Laborie’s journey through the Palace. In fact, this is the type of story better suited as a 15-minute section on 60 minutes.

When elongated to a 95-minute production, endlessly presenting us with savory French cuisine, it’s a complete, unmitigated disaster absent of tension, drama, or intrigue.

Note: My review does not and should not apply to those who have an affinity for both France and the culinary arts. If you do, then Christian Vincent’s Haute Cuisine will be a palatable heaven. 

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